There are a number of songs that are in the running. Before I choose one specific one, I'll nominate a few.
- "I Ride an Old Paint" by Carl Sandberg - My memory of this one isn't of Sandberg's singing but rather of my mother's singing of Sandberg's version. It took me a while, but I did manage to track down Sandberg's version.
- "Stewball" by Peter, Paul, and Mary (and lots of other people) - This was the other lullaby I remember my mother singing to me as a child. I don't know whether I remember rocking in the rocking chair, but I remember being told that I was rocked in a particular chair while Mom sang me these first two songs.
- "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm" by the Kingston Trio - I remember this one playing on my mother's record player when I was a kid, along with a number of other songs that hold family memories for me in the same way: "All My Children of the Sun" - Pete Seeger, "Don't Go Down to The Quarry" - Peter, Paul, and Mary
- "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show - This one is far more recent, having come into my world down at Tall Stacks five or six years ago (2006, I looked it up). The Girl and I had gone down to see Wilco perform and caught the end of the OCMS set before Wilco stepped out. The weather was perfect, the night was nice, and this song has meant a great deal to me ever since.
- "I Know What Love Is" by Don White - This one's tough for me. My father's father passed away while The Girl and I were living on Philomena Ave in a house that was just over 100 years old at the time. My grandmother - his wife of sixty or seventy years - had passed away in the same room in a nursing home in New Albany (his and my hometown) not a couple of months earlier. The details of all of this are sketchy to me because I was teaching in Cincinnati and hours away from the passings. Because of this, things were oddly distant for me, but there were two specific incidents when their passings hit me very hard. One was while watching the last episode of Mad About You (May 24, 1999, I looked it up). In the final episode, there's a montage of moments yet to come in the life of Paul & Jamie's daughter (played by Jeanane Garofalo). One of the moments was clearly in the last years of Paul's father's life. He sat at a table celebrating their daughter's birthday, and he was slipping into dementia. (In all honesty, I think this incident came before my grandfather passed away but when he was well into his dying years.) The other time was when I was heading away from our Philomena home and "I Know What Love Is" came on the radio. It was a Sunday evening, and I have no idea where I was going, but I can tell you exactly where I was because I remember having to pull over because I couldn't drive through the tears. The song tells the life of a woman from birth through marriage to mothering to watching her husband die in her room and to finally finding herself taken back into God's loving arms. As I type this, I can still feel the tears welling up just thinking of the song. I spent the next couple of years hunting down the specific version of the song on a single benefit cd that I now own, and it tears at my heart strings every time I hear it to this day.
- "Rainbow Connection" and "The Magic Store" by the Muppets - I love the this movie above nearly every other I've ever seen. The opening and closing numbers make my heart absolutely sing. Whenever the movie's on - whether it's because I've put the DVD on or because it's playing at two in the morning above Relay for Life - I'm sucked in.
- Lots of songs tie me back to tapes that I've made for The Girl or that The Girl made for me. I've covered those before, so I won't dwell on them again. The most emotional of these for me is probably "Wholly Humble Heart" by Martin Stephenson (again, a version only available on a charity collection.)
- "Killkelly" by Mick Moloney - During my senior year at Wabash, the college hosted a Celtic festival and brought in Mick Moloney to perform. I'd never heard of him, but I'd spent the previous year in Scotland, and The Girl was going to be in town, so I got tickets. We'd gone out for a nice, adult-type date before the concert, and got to the new performing arts center as the concert was about to begin. When Moloney introduced this song - written from letters from parents left behind in Ireland - and played it, I was in tears. It's a heart-wrencher.
- "Cecilia" by Simon & Garfunkle -I remember singing this with ColdNorthGamer during our times on WNAS. It's a happy memory.
- "Black" by Pearl Jam - This one harkens me back to my freshman year at Wabash, playing Sega hockey in Nick Salvo's fraternity room. The entirety of the Ten album does, but this one does it most strongly for me.
- "The Sweater" by Meryn Cadel - I love this song. It came into my life in high school when I was the music director at WNAS, and I kept the cd single that was shipped to the station as a promo. (As an aside, nobody sends out cd singles any more do they? How do radio stations get their new music anymore - digitally?) It has stayed one of my favorite songs, and even helped me reassure a not-too-certain sophomore Katydid a few years back at PHS. That's been a heck of a bonus.
- Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan - Kristen the Red (one of those lost friends) loved this album while we were in Scotland together. One night in a hostel somewhere in the Scottish countryside, we sat up playing checkers as the hostel played this album. The album would come back into my life the next year as The Girl played it in her apartment in Bloomington as we fell back in love. It's held me in stead ever since.
- "Lake Marie" by John Prine - At the wedding of two friends, John and Lexie, The Girl begged me to dance. I'm certainly not a dancer by temperament and told her that I would dance if they had this song, one that had been on my playlist at the time. She tottered over to mother of the bride and asked if she could request the song. Turns out that the mother of the bride is a big fan, and the DJ had the song. I danced and loved every minute of it.
- "Closer to Fine" by Indigo Girls - The week after graduation from NAHS, The Girl, Gamer, I, and The Girl's foreign exchange student took off for a week in St Louis. This song played on the tape player, and I think of that wonderful week every time I hear it to this day.
- "Sherry" by The Four Seasons - In Indiana basketball is big. I don't know if you've heard. Every spring our high school basketball team would win the sectional and head to Seymour, IN to play in the regional at the world's fourth largest high school gymnasium. There would be a morning game (starting at either 11 or 1, I think I remember) and hopefully an evening game (7pm maybe). That meant there were hours to kill between games. Some folks rented rooms and held parties. My friends weren't really those kinds of folks, so we would kill time driving around town, visiting Wal-Mart, shopping for cd's ("Wholly Humble Heart" came into my and The Girl's lives on one of those trips). During my sophomore year, I remember singing the high parts to "Sherry" in the back of (I think) Tom Boofter's boat of a car at top volume with The Girl beside me.
Probably "I Know What Love Is". It wrecks me to this day.
So, Calen, which one did you expect me to say?
And, just because I'm awesome like that, here's all of today's songs in an 8Tracks playlist.